Amichand Rajbansi

Names: Rajbansi, Amichand

Born: 14 January 1942, Clairwood, Durban

Died: 29 December 2011

In summary: An artist, the former Chairman of the House of Delegates Tricameral parliamentary chamber for Indian people, Minister without Portfolio and leader of the Minority Front.

Amichand “Bengal Tiger” Rajbansi was born in Clairwood, Durban on 14 January 1942. At the age of 14 he attended every African National Congress (ANC) rally addressed by Chief Albert Luthuli and Moses Mabida in Durban.

Rajbansi attended Clairwood Secondary School where he developed a love for debate and public speaking. After completing secondary school he proceeded to the Indian University College where studied History and Psychology. In 1959 at the age of 17, the “Bengal Tiger” led the first school boycott at Clairwood High School and took a troop of young Indian youths with the ANC flag to the Freedom Day Rally at Curries Fountain. In 1960 he won the Rembrandt art competition.

He worked as a sports administrator, professional soccer referee, civic leader, and serving in local government structures dealing with local affairs. After working in the sports fraternity Rajbansi was elected to the Indian Council in 1974. In 1976 he resigned from the Indian Council protesting the inter-Cabinet council between the Indian Council and government cabinet of Prime Minister John Vorster. Following this resignation, together with five other members and Yellan Chinsamy, they formed the Reform Party. However, Rajbansi was later expelled from the party for publicly criticising Chinsamy.

In 1981 he formed the National Peoples Party (NPP) and was elected leader of this new party. The NPP successfully competed for the election to the South African Indian Council (SAIC) and took control of SAIC. In 1984, following Prime Minister P W Botha's constitutional amendments, the NPP stood for the newly constituted House of Delegates, the Indian only parliamentary chamber, and won the majority of seats in the House. Rajbansi won the Arena Park - Chatsworth seat for the NPP in the first Tricameral elections in August 1984. Subsequently, Rajbansi became and chairman for the Ministers' Council for Indian Affairs and was appointed as Minister without portfolio in Botha’s cabinet.

In December 1988, James Commission of inquiry revealed that Rajbansi used his offices to offer his close allies liquor licenses, influence the civil service appointments and promotion, and he had improperly influenced witness against the previous parliamentary inquiries about his conduct in office. Subsequently, the commission’s final report found him guilty of all charges brought against him. He was then sacked from the cabinet and the Ministers’ Council. However, Rajbansi maintained his innocence.

After South Africa's transition to democracy in 1994, the NPP became the Minority Front and continued to draw support from the Indian community. However, the support for Rajbansi and his party began to wane following a divorce case against his wife. The divorce case became a public event with people making accusation that black magic was used. To exacerbate the worsening public support of Rajbansi, his wife, Ashadevi Rajbansi joined the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). In 2003, another tragedy struck the Rajbansi family after his daughter in law was found dead in her bedroom. The police suspected that his son, who was earlier served with a restraining order preventing him from seeing his wife, committed the murder.

After the 2004 elections, Rajbansi made an alliance with the ANC and he became MEC for Sports and Recreation for KwaZulu-Natal Province serving until 2009. Under his leadership, the MF won two seats in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature and one seat in the National Assembly in the 2009 elections. In the 2011 local government elections the party won 11 seats in the 204-seat council of the EThekwini municipality making the third largest party.  

On 26 October 2011 he was admitted to Umhlanga Hospital outside Durban.Rajbansi died on 29 December 2011 at the age of 69 after a long battle with bronchitis.

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